The New York Rangers scored three third-period goals and got 21 saves from goaltender Henrik Lundqvist to beat the New Jersey Devils 3-0 in Game 1 of the National Hockey League’s Eastern Conference finals.
Dan Girardi, Chris Kreider and Artem Anisimov had goals last night at New York’s Madison Square Garden for the Rangers, who have won the opener of all three series this postseason.
“Getting the first game is always big,” Rangers defenseman Marc Staal said. “We wanted to get a big win and we did that. You try to carry that momentum, keep it going and get the next one at home.”
The Rangers also will host Game 2 of the best-of-seven series tomorrow, with the Eastern Conference champion advancing to the Stanley Cup Final against the Los Angeles Kings or Phoenix Coyotes. The Kings lead the Western Conference finals 1-0 and will be seeking a seventh straight road playoff win in Game 2 tonight in Phoenix.
After two scoreless periods last night in New York, the Rangers broke through less than one minute into the third as Girardi fired a 47-foot slapshot past Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur for his second goal of the postseason.
“Whoever scored first tonight was going to win,” Devils coach Peter DeBoer said at a news conference. “They threw a point shot on the net that found a way through. We threw a lot of those at the net, too, and didn’t find one through. That was the story of the game.”
Kreider, a rookie, added a power-play goal for the Rangers with eight minutes left, beating Brodeur to the glove side with a wrist shot from 21 feet. The score, off a backhanded pass from Anisimov, came after the Devils’ Steve Bernier received a two- minute boarding penalty against Girardi.
Anisimov capped the scoring with an empty-net goal with 1:27 left for the Rangers, who have won four of five playoff series with New Jersey.
As Brodeur was serenaded with sing-song chants of “Mar- ty” from the Madison Square Garden crowd in the third period, Lundqvist collected his fifth playoff shutout and second this postseason. The Rangers, the top seed in the Eastern Conference, have allowed 26 goals in 15 games this postseason, having eliminated the Ottawa Senators and Washington Capitals in seven games.
“We’re really comfortable playing in the third period and again we did a good job,” Lundqvist, one of three finalists for the Hart Memorial Trophy as NHL Most Valuable Player, said in a televised interview.
The only previous time the New York-area rivals met in the conference final was in 1994, when the Rangers won Game 7 in double-overtime and went on to win their last Stanley Cup title. The Rangers’ previous trip to the Eastern Conference finals was in 1997, while the Devils last made it in 2003, when they won the most recent of their three Stanley Cup titles.
The Devils lost a second straight Game 1. New Jersey dropped the opener of its second-round series against the Philadelphia Flyers and then won four straight.
“We’ve been in this spot before,” DeBoer said. “We were down 1-0 to Philly and we know how to handle this.”
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